Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Seoul, South Korea


Monday, May 28, 2007

Children's Day

What is the true meaning of the word ‘family’? Family is an acronym for ‘Father and Mother, I Love You.’ (Song Kil-wan, the founder and the manager Hi Family, Korea)


The quotation above was taken from Dorothy Nam’s article that wrote about the meaning of family in South Korea related to the Children’s Day (Eorini Nal) that was commemorated each May 5th as the national holiday. On this day, the Korean children get big attention from their parents. Usually, their parents take them out for picnic to the garden or amusement park, watched the film, et cetera.

If we saw that the children day became the national holiday in Korea, we will definitely imagine that parents in Korea really pay attention to their children. This is correctly true, but in reality, many children’s fate in Korea was still unlucky. Why?

The biggest problem in Korean family was limited time of the togetherness. Generally, the Korean family really focused on their children’s education so that the father should work hard and rarely had time to be with his family. The supporting public facilities for children and parents in their relaxed time are also very limited.

According Dorothy Nam, compared with the American society, parents in the United States often have dinner together in the restaurant with their children, or watching TV while eating popcorn. However, in Korea, after working, the father will go to the coffee shops or bars with his colleagues whereas the mother stay in the house with the children. There are so many bars and coffee shops in Korea, but the number of family restaurants could only be counted by fingers.

Culturally, the Korean father showed his affection to the family rarely. They were not used to embrace and express their affection to their children and wives periodically. Beside that, the Korean family condition statistically showed a very bad condition. According to The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the divorce level in Korea is the second highest in the world.

At the time when I wrote this article in mid of 2004, South Korea suffered the unstable economic condition. This caused the height of the unemployment rate and the number of families that were involved in bad credit. According to a survey, approximately four million Koreans could not pay their credit card and generally, each family owed about two million won. The strong of economic pressure caused the height of stress so that the suicide and violence cases in the households increased.

For instances, a father killed his two children and wife because they did not want to do suicide. Whereas, according to Korean police statistics, the number of people who are arrested because of the household violence increased from 15,557 peoples in 2001, 16,324 peoples in 2002, and to 17,770 peoples during 2003.

Observing the height of domestic violence in the society, made us more concern on the children life in the Korean family. A newspaper reported that one of the three wives in Korea got physical violence by her husband. Recently, a woman put divorce lawsuit -- the very rare matter happened in Korea -- after 3 decades, minimal once in a week, she was hit by her husband. The other woman was taken to the hospital because her ribs were broken because of being stricken by her husband, while the other woman had eardrum broken after being stricken with baseball stick by her husband (Korean Times, May 18, 2004).

The unharmonious family made many under age children witnessed the domestic violence and affected by its impact. There was a 20's years-old student who often watches her mother was stricken by her father suffered physical and mental pressure and has to be sent to psychiatric hospital.

Worsening economic condition of Korea was not only one cause of unharmonious family in the country that is so called The Land of Morning Calm. Observing its root, the unharmonious husband-wife relations in this society was influenced by the Confucianism doctrine that becomes the living guide of Koreans. According to Professor Eom Myo-seop from Catholic University of Daegu, Confucianism gave the top priority to man and made woman become subordinate. Korean woman must obey three rules that were mentioned in samjongjido. According to these rules, the woman must obey her father when she was young, her husband after marrying, and obedient to her son when her husband died.

Although the patriarchal system has begun to change in Korea, this point of view is still often followed by the Korean family. Many husbands regarded his wife and children as his “own”.

This caused Song Kil-wan established Hi Family during 1992 to give counseling and advocations to Korean family. If Song’s efforts were successful, happiness would really no longer become a sweet dream of Korean family and the children will definitely get “the children’s day” in everyday.***

Thanks to Hendry for the pics!

Children’s Day

By: Chung Su-jin

May in South Korea was “family month”. May 5th was the Children's Day and May 8th was the Parent’s Day. On May 5th, the parents please their children. Whereas on May 8th, children gave a bucket of flowers to their parent as their expression of thankful.

If it compared with United States and Indonesia that only commemorated Mother’s Day, in South Korea, there is a Parent’s Day because the South Korean society thought that if there are children, there should be also parents. During forty years ago in the process of the fast economics development, the worked men often get stress. As a result, they sometimes release their stress to their family.

However, with the better economy improvement of South Korean, they have realized the family value. Although the domestic violence increased, the position of the family members that previously was hierarchical tended to be equal recently. I predict that in the future in South Korea, the atmosphere of other eleven months will become like the atmosphere of May that is the family's month.***


In 2004, several cases that pop up in South Korea had the similarity with the causes of the two tragic war incidents that happened 400 and 50 years ago, the lack of sensitivities of Korean government to detect emergency situation.


Once upon a time, several years before Japanese invasion to Korean peninsula at the end of 16th century, the King of Choseon Kingdom received an advice from an intelligent named Lee Yul-gok in order to prepare and train 100.000 troops for the Choseon Kingdom defense. At that time, King Sonjo and almost all of the royal senior figures underestimated this advice. However, after hearing the report about Japanese suspicion movements, the king began to feel very anxious. Finally he sent two special spies, Hwang Yun-gil and Kim Song-il, to observe the political situation in Japan.

After half of the year, the two spies came back from their duty in Japan. They came and reported what they was seen to King Sonjo. At that time, there has been a tradition in Korean to guess someone’s feeling or what he plan to do by only looking at his face (nunchi).

The first spy, Kim Song-il, reported what he has seen, “Majesty, when I saw Hideyoshi Toyotomi Emperor, I could see that he was very small and ugly. His eyes are like mouse eyes. He will not be dare to attack our kingdom. I did not see their signs for having preparations for war. You might not frightened, my Majesty”.

Nevertheless, other spy, Hwang Yun-gil, reported the very different thing, “Majesty, although Hideyoshi Emperor was small and ugly; he had sharp eyes and strong ambition. Honestly, based on my observation, I am really sure that Japan was having preparations to attack our kingdom”.

Hearing the two different reports, King Sonjo was very confused to make decision. Nevertheless, without re-checking on two spies’ report he tended to agree with senior staffs’ opinion in the defense and security department that prefer to Kim Song-il’s opinion.

What happened in the several years? Lee Yul-gok’s warning and information that was sent by Hwang Yun-gil that Japan would attack Korea became real. During 1592, Japanese Hideyoshi Toyotomi Emperor attacked Korea with 700.000 troops, 700 warships, and complete war equipment. The Choseon royal troops that were not prepared to face the sudden attack, should be surrendered. On the other hand, the success of Hideyoshi troop’s subjugated Choseon Kingdom is their success in gathering and processing the information on domestic situation in Korea.

Around 350 years later, before the outbreak of Korean War (1950-1953) the tense situation that covered Korean peninsula that was divided by two ideologies, the communist of North Korea and the democratic of South Korea. South Korean government that was led by Lee Seung-man President revealed statements in mass media that North Korean communist troops were not possible to attack South Korea. This statement is different with the actual situation. On June 25th 1950, before the dawn broke, around 135.000 North Korean troops succeeded in crossing the border of two countries and attacking South Korea. The great civil war happened for three years and ended with armistice. This war was very tragic because it cracked Korean peninsula became two countries and dispersed Koreans that was previously one nation and one relative.

What was so important from the two war stories in this Korean history? Both King Sonjo and President Lee Seung-man government ignored the reality how critical the Korean situation was at the time. Both of them did not have sense of crisis about the possibility of danger that could strike their country and their people. This attitude was really regretted because has brought fatal result. The Korean people had extraordinary physical and psychological suffering in wartime with Hideyoshi Emperor Troops or in the Korean War, and also in the cold war.

In 2004, several cases that pop up in South Korea had the similarity with the causes of the two tragic war incidents that happened 400 and 50 years ago, the lack of sensitivities of Korean government to detect emergency situation. This could be seen from the three cases. Firstly, president Roh Moo-Hyun statement in responding to the worsening of South Korean economics lately. Secondly, the lack of South Korean Foreign Department staff's in responding the lost of South Korean citizen in Iraq. Thirdly, the slowness of South Korean police work to responding the report on several citizens’ loss in Seoul that that had became the victims of the sequence killing.

In the first case, President Roh Moo-Hyun seemed to deny the reality that South Korean economy is in the crisis. The president did not care of the expert of economics’ opinion or considered about the survey results from the credible agency. For example, the results survey of Bank of Korea on 2.453 manufacture companies showed descended business index from 87 in April 2004 to 80 in May 2004. Then, the survey that was done by Korean International Trade Association (KITA) showed the index of export conviction decline from 135,2 in the first quarter 2004 to 126,4 in the second quarter. Moreover, the statistical data showed the height of unemployment level especially within the younger generations, the increasing of the amount of stalled credit, the decline of domestic request and overseas capital flight as the result of South Korean the uncertainty economic prospect.

Although this economic data has been enough to be proof that the economics in the emergency condition, in the last March, President Roh said, “although the Korean economics was being in the difficult situation, it could not be said that it was crisis” (The Korea Times, June 24th 2004). Moreover, the president accused the businessmen conspired to exaggerate the rumors. In this July and August, several months after President Roh's statement, economics articles in the newspaper reported that South Korean economics was changing from crisis to recession and even be in the doorstep of economic depression. If only President Roh's government realized that Korean economics in the serious situation, it could be prevented since the beginning.

Next, the tragic incident that struck Kim Sun-il could become an indicator on how bad the sense of crisis of South Korean government is. Kim Sun-il was killed in Iraq on June 23rd, 2004 after being kidnapped by one of the militant's groups and being imprisoned for around 3 weeks in June 2004. On June 3 rd, South Korean Foreign Department in Seoul received telephone from an Associated Press reporter who asked whether they lost a citizen was named Kim Sun-il in Iraq. The staff of South Korean Foreign Affairs Department that received this telephone did not confirm and investigate for more. It is fatal because they realized the crisis late that was dealt with Kim Sun-il. He could not be saved. Perhaps if Korean Foreign Affairs Department suspected to the contents of the conversation via telephone and holding further investigation, there must be much available time for negotiating Kim Sun-il’s liberation.

The last case to prove the inability of South Korean government apparatus in detecting danger that threatened the society was the case of sequence killing in Seoul. South Korean police received strong critics from the society because of their slowness in responding the report on the missing of several night worker women and Seoul citizens several months ago (Korea Times, July 21st 2003). Evidently, most of them who were reported lost became sequence-killing victims. Its killer was arrested unintentionally because of others case and after killing around 26 people. If only the police carried out an investigation on the report of the missing persons since the beginning, may be this sequence killing could be prevented.

The three cases above and examples of history incidents in the past were enough to make South Korean government realize the lack of their capacity to analyze and respond to the crisis or emergency can cause a very dangerous thing. The crisis or this emergence situation could become worst and even get victims. Not only the one or several people life, but also the life of all over the citizens one country was threatened by danger if their government no longer had sense of crisis. ***

On Heat and Humid Days of summer, Seoul, 23-24 July 2004
Pictures: General Hideyoshi Toyotomi (http://www2.hawaii/~sford/research/turtel/index.html)

The Hostage

Kim's death became a horrific scene that happened in front of all the Korean eyes. Korean people witnessed Kim's hostage video where Kim who did not have the power, with the head closed by orange cloth, surrendered in front of his hostage-taker asking for compassions in order not to be killed. The last request in his life had not been fulfilled.


THE fortune could not be gained; the unfortunate could not be refused. That is the fate that had to befall by Kim Sun-il in the hostage drama in Iraq at June 2004 that cause of his death.

Kim, the South Korean citizen that was fluently in speaking Arabian and worked as the translator in a South Korean company that supplied the US troops requirement, was found dead after approximately 3 weeks being a hostage of Iraqi militant's group. Kim Sun-il was executed because of their demand for South Korea to withdrew its 660 medical staffs and did not send its 3.000 troops to Iraq was not heeded by the South Korean government.

Kim's death became a horrific scene that happened in front of all the Korean eyes. Korean people witnessed Kim's hostage video where Kim who did not have the power, with the head closed by orange cloth, surrendered in front of his hostage-taker asking for compassions in order not to be killed. The last request in his life had not been fulfilled.

Initially, I did not follow enthusiastically this hostage story. Just after a friend from Malaysia warned me not to go out of the house if not necessary (he quoted an appeal of Bangladesh embassy in South Korea to their citizens in South Korea), I realized how important the lesson that could be taken from Kim's death is for the government and the Indonesian citizens that lived in foreign countries.

Unlike Bangladesh and Malaysian Embassy that was worried about the safety of their citizens in South Korea, Indonesian Embassy in Seoul (KBRI) seems gave a cool and calm response. I did not accept telephone and there was not any friends tell me about such an instruction from the Indonesian Embassy in South Korea to Indonesian citizens in South Korea to be careful in revealing their identity as Muslim to avoid rage of Korean citizen. Luckily, South Korean government immediately anticipated the possibility of the South Korean citizens’ anger, which was wrongly addressed by sending a group of its police to guard the mosque in Itaewon area.

The reaction of Korean society was followed by me through English newspaper; Korean Times and Korean Herald. Kim Sun-il’s tragic death brought impacts in politics, social and even psychological effects for South Korean society. Kim Sun-il’s family that is very sorrowful, besides blaming the terrorist group, also pointed Korean government that became the cause of Kim's death. The stubborn attitude of South Korean government that took the decision to keep sending 3.000 troops to Iraq this August 2004 was considered to become the trigger for their son death.

South Korean government got hard blasphemy from the society because of their failure to save Kim's life. They were disappointed by the bad diplomacy and the government negotiations’ capacity to free Kim. The government was also regarded as weak because did not have the bargaining position opposite USA so keep sending their troops with diplomacy reason to keep their good relation with Washington.

The feeling of disappointed and anger of South Korean people were highly increasing because later on they knew that the staffs of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of South Korean did not respond seriously when Associated Press reporter asked if there was a South Korean citizen named Kim Sun-il that was lost in Iraq. If only South Korean government cared in fate and safety of their citizen overseas, possibly there would be enough time and strategy to be used to rescue Kim Sun-il’s life.

The price that must be paid by South Korean government on their slow reaction to rescue his citizen that was in danger situation has reduced the level of belief drastically from South Korean society to the government. Kim Sun-il’s death opened the Korean people eyes and awareness that their government could not protect their people in overseas.

The disappointment of Korean people against the government has blown up a big protest and the multitudinous reaction. Korean Confederation of Trade Unions/ KCTU (the biggest worker organization in Korea that had 690.000 workers) planned mass demonstration demanded on cancellation of the South Korean troop’s departure to Iraq in this August. The member of the South Korean worker organization that was a pilot of Korean Airlines and Asian Airlines companies threatened to boycott the transport of South Korean troops and military supply to Iraq. The Lawyers’ Group for Democratic Society demanded the parliament to carry out an investigation to the official government that has authority to handle Kim's case. Whereas, the teachers organization has a plan to give the anti-war lesson to their students.

Besides the political and social shock above, there is also psychological shock. It was reported by Korean Herald newspaper (June 29, 2004), they are who watched the Kim's scene of hostage video get mental trauma. Yoo Sang-woo, a clinical psychologist in Seoul said that he was often visited by the patient who felt like isolated, depression and insomnia after witnessing Kim's hostage video. Yoo said that these signs were categorized as acute stress disorder. It happened because when seeing this scene, they supposed themselves as Kim Sun-il. Because of this acute stress disorder, an accountant claim that he could not concentrate on his work for days. The effect of this trauma would be lost after one month for adult and six months for children.

Kim Sun-il’s case reminded me to the mistreatment case to an Indonesian servant in Malaysia several weeks ago. The amounts of Indonesian cases of mistreatment to Indonesia migrant worker were uncounted anymore. If Indonesian worker in Malaysia was ironed and watered by hot water by his employer, in another place there were some of them who experienced mistreatment until died. And also, there was uncounted number of Indonesian workers who experienced any accident during the work and deal with bad work condition overseas.

It is hoped that Kim Sun-il’s case warned all of us that each Indonesian citizen overseas had the right to get protection and security guarantee from Indonesian government. Unfortunately, according to Wahyu Susilo from Migrant CARE, the legislative as one of the general election products, during their post period (almost five years) failed to do legislation to protect the migrant worker. The Regulation of Indonesian Migrant Worker Protection and its Family Member Draft available on the legislative since 1998 has not been processed seriously. Only became as the DPR Initiative Regulations since 2002, and did not discuss and finalized as Protection Regulations of the Indonesian Migrant Workers and their Family Members that has been waiting for by many people (KOMPAS, February 25th 2004).

Without the protection in the form of Migrant Worker Regulations, could we compare Indonesian fate of the migrant worker overseas like a hostage? They were “hostage” not by the terrorist militant group, but by the predicated work “dirty, difficult, and dangerous”. ***

Seoul, June 31, 2004

Friday, April 20, 2007

Sleepless in Seoul

It is possibly because of the harshness of life demand in South Korea recently makes the Korean women are free to step outside the house. The height of the living cost in Korea (Seoul was in the first place of cities with the most expensive living cost in the world according a survey in 2004) makes people must work extra hard until late at night. Beside that, as a tradition, to eliminate stress in their workplace the Korean workers likes to stop in the norebang (Korean style karaoke), drinking coffee or beer in cafes with their work colleagues or friends. Therefore, many women came home around the closing hour of the subway station.
BY the summer time in June 2004, the cool air covered Seoul that has just been splashed by rain. It was 11 pm but the atmosphere in Daegok, northeastern Seoul, was still seems like 7 pm.

The French bakery at the end of the road in Daegok was still opened and just in a quarter hour, three visitors had already come to buy. The other shops on its side were also still unwilling to close their shop windows. An old woman was still spreading out her merchandises; vegetables and fruits, on the ground in front of the subway entrance, line number 5.

During a quarter hour, I stood in the three-way intersection of the subway entrance in Hwarangdae, in front of the French bakery. I was waiting for a friend who was returning to our friend's dormitory due to her umbrella was left behind. While waiting for her, I paid attention to the people that went back and forth in the three-way intersection.

A group of women has just left the subway. They looks like the inhabitants of this area and just came home from visiting their friend's house. I assumed that because they did not bring bags containing the stuffs from shopping (as I know, Korean ajumma-the middle age women- really liked shopping). Then, a Korean girl passed carrying a notebook bag. On her shoulder, there hanged a big bag and the low tip of her “you can see” - shirt fluttered among the fast step of her feet. Apparently, she just came home from work.

After my friend came, we entered the subway station Hwarangdae. When stepping downward the escalator in the station I saw several young girls laugh with their friends. I suspected that these young agashi (miss) in their way to home. They must not leave for a trip at 11 pm in the evening because the last subway is operated until 12 pm mid night.

In the hall of subway station, we met several girls who came home alone without burden. The men just also went by, without gazing at strange or surprising look at the girls who were still outside of the house, although their clothes do not fully cover their bodies, the trend fashion for summer time in Korea.

My friend and I discussed this situation that was really different from Indonesia. The Korean society is more patriarchal than Indonesian society, and Korean women became the male subordinate (as their strong Confucianism tradition), but outside of the house, Korean women could enjoy more of their "freedom" and more secure than the Indonesian women do. In some cities in Indonesia, the women who were still outside of the house more than a particular time, and wear a particular shirt, are arrested by police officers, although they have just come from their work. In Korea, there were no cynical stare, no sexual harassment, and no frown if watching a girl, who was running to get the last subway at 12 pm at the station.

It is possibly because of the harshness of life demand in South Korea recently makes the Korean women are free to step outside the house. The height of the living cost in Korea (Seoul was in the first place of cities with the most expensive living cost in the world according a survey in 2004) makes people must work extra hard until late at night. Beside that, as a tradition, to eliminate stress in their workplace the Korean workers likes to stop in the norebang (Korean style karaoke), drinking coffee or beer in cafes with their work colleagues or friends. Therefore, many women came home around the closing hour of the subway station.

My friend and I arrived in our gisuksa (dormitory) nearby area at 12 pm. Daehangno Street that we passed by after getting out of the subway station Hyehwa the line number 4 was still busy. The young couples just came home from their dates and several men enjoyed the atmosphere of the cool night in the concrete benches of 4 meters Daehangno road pavement. The sky was so bright at that time.

Watching the crowded atmosphere in this night in Seoul, I suspected that there were still other activities in several places in the Korean Government office. Possibly, several government staffs must stay in their office tonight after working until late at night. Because in these two months, the conference about the nuclear problem in North Korea was taking place, in June 23rd 2004 Beijing was ready to become the host of the conference whereas Indonesia offered itself to be host for the conference of six parties that had contribution to the nuclear conflict resolution in the Korean Peninsula in the next month.

Professor Yang Seung-yoon, my acquaintance from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, ever said that the distance between Seoul and Pyongyang (the capital of North Korean) like ‘a throwing of stone’. If North Korea intended to give a 'gift' a small nuclear rocket to South Korea, then in a wink Seoul could become ruins. Prof. Kim from Seoul National University in one of his columns in the Korean newspaper The Korea Herald, wrote about the nuclear problem that has not been resolving made the South Korean people always anxious because of being haunted by the outbreak of the war incidentally.

If thinking about the possibility of the outbreak of this war, many Korean could not sleep soundly. My trip tonight to Daegok made me want to make other conclusion. It is not because of the nuclear problem, but economics demand and the increase of the security in the public places that made more Koreans come home at night and slept late. That night feels like going so fast. And then, suddenly, I also felt “Sleepless in Seoul”. ***

Seoul, June 19, 2004 Around departed to Dano Festival

Four Seasons

I find out that Korean people know well that spring, summer, fall, and winter have different characteristics. For instances are in the matters of temperature, weather, and the effects of the nature. They also fully realize that the difference in characteristics in each season bring different impacts on their lives.


BEFORE living in Korea, I can say that I hardly paid attention to season things. Seasons come and go in my life: rainy season and dry season. The only thing I remember about season in Indonesia is that it is very hot during dry season (causing the well in my house to dry) and there is heavy rain during rainy season (causing the roof tiles to get leaked out).

After living in Korea, my awareness related to season appears gradually. Perhaps, it is because the season here is different from that of Indonesia. Perhaps, it is because I am beginning to realize that the beauty and the uniqueness in each season available in Korea. Perhaps, it is because I suffer from pain due to the fact that I can not bear the cold temperature during the winter in Korea.

I find out that Korean people know well that spring, summer, fall, and winter have different characteristics. For instances are in the matters of temperature, weather, and the effects of the nature. They also fully realize that the difference in characteristics in each season bring different impacts on their lives.

Besides personally experiencing and making a little observation, I know about the uniqueness related to the four seasons in Korea from the books related to Korean language study published by Kyung Hee University, which is full of Korean cultural studies. After reading one of the articles discussing the seasons in Korea, I notice that Korea is a country which is highly affected by the change in seasons. For example, spring lasting between March and May in Korea is the season when the flowers bloom, started from the bloom of Canary flower and jindalae which looks like bush coloured in yellow, then followed by the bloom of jangmi kot (rose) two months later.

Spring is also time for the group of Sakura flowers to bloom. In the first place, I thought that Sakura flowers would bloom throughout the spring. But, now I know I was wrong. Sakura flower only blooms in several days. The petals of Sakura flowers only hang on it for a week and then fall down to the ground after its short beauty impressing lots of people. Once I saw the petals of Sakura flowers flying through the air which then finally drop to the ground. After reaching the soil, they would spread out like a beautiful mat coloured in pink.

Early spring is considered by the Korean people as the beginning of new things. Hence, the spring break becomes the beginning of the new semester at schools and universities. My lecturer in one of my classes once explained that spring for Korean people was identical with season belonging to the women. Why? During this season, Korean women come out of their previous winter clothes covering their beauty. It is in Spring that the woman shows up like a beautiful goddess with bright red and feminine clothes. We certainly have seen how pretty these Korean agashi (miss) during the spring, haven’t we?

Besides bringing the beauty, spring also causes suffering for Korean people. It is because during the spring, they have to get ready for the coming of yellow dust from Gobi desert blown by the wind to Korea. If the sky over the Korean peninsula is covered by the yellow dust, breathing illness attacks.

After that, summer comes and lasts for three months, from June to August. During the summer, uniquely, there is a period when the rain falls heavily in several days. Korean people call this rain as jangma and the period of the rainfall as jangma chol (chol means season). After jangma abates, usually the warm temperature and extremely humid air attack Korea. It has been a tradition for Korean people to eat samgyetang (full chicken boiled with onion and filled with rice and some spice). They say that after eating samgyetang, they would sweat a lot and their bodies would feel better. You have tried samgyetang during this summer, haven’t you?

During the summer, another disaster happens, that is the typhoon (not only once, but several times) which brings strong wind at speed, heavy rain, and flood. This typhoon usually comes from the regions around Philippines blowing north through Taiwan island, Japan, and finally destroys the area along the east coast of Korean peninsula before continuing its route to China. Regarding this typhoon, my lecturer once said a joke stating that Korea imported three main commodities from Philippines i.e. banana, singer, and typhoon (^ ^).

The hot temperature is gone once the fall arrives from September to November. During this season, Korean people go on vacation to mountainous regions, enjoying the scenery of trees with leaves colour changing from green to yellow, orange, brown, and red. This nature phenomenon is called dampung and the holiday spent to watch the beauty of the leaves is called dampung yoheng (yoheng means vacation).

Fresh air and fine weather during the fall are often enjoyed by Korean people by reading books (this activity is called dokseo); and because of this, the fall season is also called reading season. Students feel comfortable being in the library and the book stores are full of purchasers. And if spring is identical with women, Korean people recall fall as the season of men. What’s the reason? During this season, men wear sweater and scarf which make them look gorgeous and charming for women.

Finally, there comes the winter which is very cold from December until the end of February. The temperature can reach minus 10 degree celcius. In this season, it is time for Korean people to switch on ondol (the heater for the floor made by Korean people which is put on the floor of their house so that it can get warm, the specially designed heater pot under the floor of Korean houses so as to warm up the floor). Korean people enjoy the winter by skiing in the ski in the places where there is much snow. During this winter, old women in Korea are busy to cook kimchi. It is because during the winter people can suffer from flu easily. Therefore, consuming kimchi containing a lot of garlic is surely beneficial in preventing their bodies from being attacked by this illness.

If you have the chance to stay in Korea during the winter, I suggest that you try to take time seeing jjot nun or the first snow. Korean people are very happy if they are able to see the first snow falling. And if they know we are in Korea during the winter, they would enthusiastically ask, “Did you see the first snow falling?”, “At that moment, what wish did you make?”

If I were asked such question, I would answer, “I wish winter would not feel cold”. Hehehe, an ordinary wish, isn’t it? What is else could I ask for the person whose country does not have four seasons.

Seoul, 2-3 July 2004